The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

It’s been a rollercoaster ride in the patch this week: highs, lows and a motto of ‘you win some, you lose some.’ The Good first. The melons are looking grand, 12 fruits on three plants all swelling nicely. If you look closely at the photo, you’ll see that Adrienne hasn’t been the only one keeping an eye on them; there’s an army of little froglets sitting around on the wooden blocks every time I check on the melons.

Melon minder: a tiny frog sits in the shade.

I don’t want to become an aubergine bore, but they are doing so well I can’t help including another pic this time (sorry). We’ve never had a harvest like this, they are so tasty and versatile and, given the price in the shops, a true luxury.

The goody basket this week has seen the first squashes arrive in the kitchen. We stuffed this ‘Sweet Dumpling’ and roasted the other veg to go with it, accompanied by a rich tomato sauce – yum. We’ve also eaten the first ‘Winter Butternut’, roasted in whole spices as a curry dish. There are plenty more to come and they store well so should keep us going through the autumn.

Like the aubergines, the basil is the best I’ve ever grown: green, purple and lemon, all from vegetableseeds.net.

From front to back: green, lemon and purple basil (and hyssop to the left).

It’s the first time I’ve ever had more than I can use so I’ve been freezing it for future use. It’s a great way of preserving soft leafy herbs like parsley and coriander, too, and it’s very simple: just chop finely, put a tablespoon in each ice cube compartment, top up with cold water and freeze. The herb cubes can then be turned out into a labelled bag, kept in the freezer and thrown straight into a recipe – great in pasta sauces, for example.

On the salad front, the ‘Little Gem’ lettuce are going well despite the heat and dry conditions and the oriental mix I planted in the polytunnel is zooming up – it germinated in an incredible two days!

Doubling in size evey day – they really are little gems.

Speedy salad: oriental leaf mix.

I’ve harvested, dried and sorted the shallots grown from sets. Although a few rotted in the wet spring, we’ve had a decent crop and they look like good keepers. I’m tempted to try growing some from seed next year, too, as the onions have done so well. The ‘Unwins Giant Exhibition’ have certainly lived up their name – they are HUGE, I think one will do us four meals…and I am definitely looking forward to some decent French onion soup!

Mighty giants: Unwins Giant Exhibition onions.

 The weather is hot with temperatures pushing 30˚C again and we’ve had very little rain, the ground is dry and dusty. That said, it’s lovely to see the patch in its full summer green and there are splashes of colour everywhere.

 

Tongues of fire: the borlotti beans are a stunning colour.

The marjoram flowers are full of butterflies.

A bright yellow baby ‘Big Max’ pumpkin.

So, now for the Bad. This is a sight I really did not want to see – the dreaded blight. 😦 The rate of devastation of the indoor tomato plants was stupendous: one day, I was picking a bowlful of juicy little cherry tomatoes (most of which didn’t make it as far as the tunnel door ), the next day I was greeted by brown fruits and collapsed plants.

No, no, no!  After all I’ve been through with those wretched plants, this was the final blow. Nothing to do but take the ripe fruits and use the untouched green ones in cooking (they make a tasty vegetable dish, especially fried with spices then sloshed with balsamic vinegar) – every cloud has a silver lining!

The outdoor toms have also succumbed but not as badly. I stripped out all the affected plant material, doused the lot with a Bordeaux mixture solution and have my fingers firmly crossed that some tomatoes will at least survive and ripen.

Outdoor tomatoes – is there hope?

I know that they were a casualty of my trip back to the UK, I wasn’t here to keep the growth under control when they most needed it. It’s frustrating but there’s always next year, I suppose…

Flea beetles are the bane of my gardening life at the moment, they are like a rash all over the young brassica and salad plants, reducing them to a lacy mess. I’m doing what I can to give the plants the best possible chance – lots of water, fleece covers, cultivating around them, squashing the little pests I can catch – but it’s an uphill struggle.

On a brighter note, I was pleased to find that the red ‘Kalibos’ cabbage are forming hearts, despite the bashing they’ve taken from everything so perhaps there is hope after all.

 Finally, the Ugly. I have planted and replanted the ‘Yard Long’ climbing beans several times over and long ago came to the conclusion that I won’t be doing it again. To be fair to the plants, they are now producing a small amount of flowers and beans but just look at them: they are really quite freaky things, maybe a yard long but as thin as spaghetti. Definitely not worth the bother in my book!

 

Sam and Adrienne have left us but not before spending time helping to transform the ugly into something more beautiful. They started to turn a huge pile of stone and rubble into a sun terrace from where we will be able to look out over the veg patch and orchard. It was hard work in the heat but they’ve made a great start. Well done, you two!

At Easter, Adrienne used her artistic skills to decorate an ugly old concrete boundary marker into a pretty ‘welcome’ sign by the front door. This time she has worked her magic on a bigger one to make a sign for the veg patch. It’s beautiful and I love it. Thanks, Sweet Pea! 🙂

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4 thoughts on “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

  1. Aw, the sight of your poor tomatoes just broke my heart a little bit. I got blight last year, this year seems safe here so far.
    Your aubergines are amazing, I really want some. I am keeping my fingers crossed, but I only just have a couple of flower buds forming. I am totally jealous of your melons too, they look fab.

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    • Well, there has to be something to be happy about, doesn’t there?!!! We had blight last year too but our neighbours’ plants are fine so far – I’m hoping for better luck next year. Hope your toms stay blight- free! 🙂

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  2. It’s a real surprise that you’ve got blight when it’s been so hot and dry. Is it humid in your polytunnel?

    Most of your produce looks wonderful and you’re right to be proud of your aubergines – well jealous!

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    • Yes, that’s the big surprise for us, too – it’s the most unlikely blight weather possible! The polytunnel is slightly more humid than outdoors but it’s well-ventilated and we’ve been leaving the door open day and night. The cherry tomatoes are struggling on so we are picking a few of those- and the aubergines are a decent consolation! 🙂

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